Why have a Neighbourhood Plan?
Having a Neighbourhood Plan helps to give us some influence over the future development within the parish. It will be devised to help protect the things this community values and to mitigate our concerns as much as possible.
Without a Plan the future of our area would be determined by East Hampshire District Council’s “one size fits all” Local Plan, which cannot adapt to the special requirements of our parish. Our area is very different from large towns like Alton and from neighbouring villages like Four Marks and Ropley.
Without a Plan every planning application in our area would only be assessed against the national and district policies, taking no account of OUR local housing needs and all the other policies included in the Plan.
Other communities have already developed, or are working on their own Neighbourhood Plans. If we fail to develop a Plan, we lose the capacity to influence development in our parish.
How will our Neighbourhood Plan be enforced?
Once “made”, our Neighbourhood Plan will be applied through the planning system, sitting alongside national guidelines and the East Hampshire Local Plan. Any new planning application will be assessed by East Hampshire District Council against the policies in our Plan. Permission would normally be refused if it does not conform with them. If an application goes to appeal, our policies will also have equal weight with the national and district policies.
How will the policies in the Plan be arrived at?
At the first Public Meeting on 27th October 2015, parishioners had an opportunity to express their interests and their concerns by sticking Post-it notes onto boards. The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee, appointed by the Parish Council from volunteers who came forward at/after the Public Meeting, used these Post-it notes as a basis for a questionnaire.
This questionnaire was sent out in late October 2016 and had to be returned by 22nd November 2016. The response rate was 57%, well above the average of 15-20% for our region. The Steering Committee will be using these responses and further feedback from the parish, including at a second Public Meeting on 15th December 2016, to develop a Vision, Objectives and – eventually – policies. We will consult further as we develop the policies.
When we are ready, the Steering Committee will prepare a draft Neighbourhood Plan, which will be subject to both an informal and a formal consultation process.
Once this is complete, the “submission version” of the Neighbourhood Plan will be handed over to East Hampshire District Council.
What happens after the Draft Neighbourhood Plan is submitted to the District Council?
East Hampshire District Council will appoint an independent examiner (a senior planning professional) to examine the Plan and supporting documents as well as the consultation responses to check that the Plan fulfils the legal conditions for a Neighbourhood Plan and that “due process” had been followed.
If the examiner is satisfied that we have followed the correct process, that our plan meets the five “Basic Conditions”, and that our evidence is sufficient to support our policies, he/she will allow the Plan to proceed to a referendum, provided any changes he/she requires are made.
The District Council will then arrange for a local referendum in the parish. Everyone in the parish who is registered on the electoral roll will be entitled to vote YES or NO to the whole Plan. For the Plan to come into force a majority (ie over 50%) of people who vote need to vote “Yes”.
The question you will be asked at referendum is: “Do you want East Hampshire District Council to use the Bentworth Parish Neighbourhood Plan to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”
Could we have done anything we wanted through the Neighbourhood Plan?
No. The main focus of the Neighbourhood Plan is on spatial planning. There are certain things that are excluded, like mineral extraction for example.
All our policies have to be capable of being applied through the current planning system, be in conformity with the National Policy Planning Framework and (unless there are truly extraordinary reasons why not) be in “general conformity” with the Local Plan. Everything in the Neighbourhood Plan must be “evidence based” and not just a good idea somebody thought up.
Finally, landowners must be treated impartially, and it must be possible for the allowed development to be economically viable.
Why do we need any new homes in the parish at all?
Central Government is acutely aware that there are not enough homes being built across the country as a whole. It has therefore placed an obligation on local planning authorities to encourage new build, albeit stressing that this should be on a sustainable basis.
East Hampshire District Council has decided that, for the period 2013-28, 150 new homes should be built in the villages outside the South Downs National Park. Of these Bentworth has been allocated “about 12”.
The questionnaire indicated that 78% of respondents believe that smaller homes are needed in the parish. There are a number of older people in the parish who would like to move from a larger house that has become difficult to manage into a smaller, more convenient home, but still remain in the local area. Some older people may also like to see scope for their children to move into the parish.
The Plan will provide a framework within which modest, but sustainable development can take place.
New houses will be built in the parish anyway – won’t that be enough?
Most of the houses that have been built in the parish in recent years have been infill housing of 1 or 2 new homes. Some of this infill housing is likely to continue. But most of the infill houses that will happen anyway are likely to cater for the people who want – and can afford – larger homes. The infill housing will be within the current Settlement Policy Boundary and will not therefore count against our allocation.
The allocation of “about 12” homes is outside the current Settlement Policy Boundary. We have the opportunity to influence the location for these new homes to be built and to set policies which will ensure that our concerns and interests are taken into account, eg by ensuring that the rural character of the parish is maintained and that development includes some smaller homes.
National guidelines require that 40% of new homes be “affordable” homes. But this guideline applies only if more than 10 homes are built on one site. We need to consider whether we wish to set policies that allow/require “affordable homes” to be built in Bentworth.
What is the Settlement Policy Boundary (SPB)?
This is the planning policy boundary drawn round a settlement as part of the EHDC Local Plan Part 1 (Joint Core Strategy). The settlement policy boundary around Bentworth is tightly drawn round dwellings and their gardens, but does not include all dwellings in the village and cuts through some gardens.
Residential development will not be permitted outside the SPB except as an exception to policy, when it is known as exception site development, or when the site is allocated for housing on a SHLAA site.
When a site is approved for development through the Neighbourhood Plan, the SPB will be extended to include the land on that site.
What is an exception site?
An exception site is one, which lies outside the SPB and can only be developed for residential dwellings if certain conditions are met, including that the dwellings are affordable housing to meet evidenced local housing needs.
What is “affordable housing”?
Affordable housing (as defined in the Department for Communities and Local Government Planning Policy Framework) is social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, which includes shared ownership, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. Affordable housing is usually provided by Councils or Registered Providers/Housing Associations.
What is the EHDC?
EHDC is an acronym for East Hampshire District Council, the local authority fr the whole of East Hampshire, but the planning authority for one third of the Eastern part of Hampshire, which includes Bentworth. The remaining two thirds are covered by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).
What is the SHLAA Process?
SHLAA stands for Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment.
THE SHLAA is a document that identifies all the land that has come forward to EHDC and which landowners would like to develop, either now or in the future. EHDC undertake a number of tests to decide whether each piece of land is developable.
The inclusion of a site within the SHLAA does not imply that the site will necessarily be developed.